(NEXSTAR) — With spooky season in full swing, millions of Americans are beginning their annual horror movie marathons leading up to Halloween. But scares aren’t just reserved for movies classified as horror — something can be scary for a million different reasons to a million different people.
Forget “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie — which non-horror film is a scary movie?
While “scary” is subjective, here are some of the most-cited non-horror movies users of Reddit named the scariest. Wondering where to watch scary movies? Below, find the various streaming platforms you can see these movies and more.
“No Country for Old Men” (2007)
Javier Bardem’s chilling performance as merciless killer Anton Chigurh won the Spanish actor an Oscar and helped propel this Western crime-thriller into horror movie territory for many.
“No Country’ is borderline cosmic horror,” one Redditor mused. “Anton Chigurh will never die.”
“The one true living Boogeyman!” another replied.
Throughout the film, Chigurh eludes law enforcement and quietly tracks local Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who has the briefcase of money Chigurh was hired to recover.
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men” was a critical and commercial hit and even received the award for Best Picture at the 80th Academy Awards. Since its release, it’s been widely regarded among the best films of the 21st Century, if not all-time.
“No Country for Old Men” is available for rent or purchase across most streaming platforms and can be streamed for free (or with subscription) through Prime Video, Paramount+ and Hoopla.
This BBC-produced documentary-style movie is noted by many Redditors for being an all-too-believable portrait of nuclear war and its fallout. The Mick Jackson-directed “Threads” was shown on TV and well-regarded, though it didn’t make too many major waves. The film’s political and historical realism means that many people did see the sometimes-disturbing film in school, however.
“Threads” is available to rent or purchase through Prime Video and Vudu and can also be streamed for free (or with subscription) through Tubi, Hoopla, Kanopy, Shudder and Mubi.
“Black Swan” (2010)
This one may be a little bit of a cheat, since it very easily could be categorized as horror (though it’s generally classified as a drama or thriller). Director Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” follows ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) as she takes the lead role in her ballet company’s production of “Swan Lake” — but Nina soon learns the pressure of perfection can be horrific.
Soon, both Nina and the audience can no longer trust that what they’re seeing is reality.
Portman won 2010’s Best Actress Oscar for her performance in “Black Swan,” which was also nominated for Best Picture at that year’s ceremony. The film takes inspiration from several films, including Roman Polanski’s 1965 thriller “Repulsion,” (which also features a female lead losing grip on reality) but many through the years have noticed uncanny similarities between “Black Swan” and Satoshi Kon’s 1997 anime psychological thriller “Perfect Blue.”
“Perfect Blue” is also mentioned by many Redditors among the list of not-traditionally-considered-horror-movies-that-are-scary. The Japanese animated classic follows pop star Mima as she leaves her popular girl group to pursue an acting career — and her biggest fan isn’t happy about it.
Aronofsky has acknowledged the similarities between the movies, though he says “Perfect Blue” wasn’t necessarily a direct influence on his movie. The director is clearly a fan of Kon’s, however, as another of his movies (which may also be included in this list) overtly pays tribute to a shot from “Perfect Blue.”
“Black Swan” is currently available to rent or buy on most streaming platforms. “Perfect Blue” is available for rent or purchase, in addition to being free to subscribers of AMC+ and Shudder.
This is another one that might feel just a little too real — especially since we’ve all experienced a pandemic since Steven Soderbergh’s disaster thriller “Contagion” was released. The film’s depiction of an outbreak and spread of a new respiratory virus.
The film’s screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, consulted epidemiologists and the World Health Organization during its writing to find out how such a global catastrophe would unravel — and the finished product is disturbingly accurate to what would transpire in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I never realized how horrifyingly realistic this movie is until I watched it a few nights ago. The jargon they use, the measures they take against it and even the statistics they use are things you can almost swear you saw on the news over the last few days,” one YouTube user wrote in 2020 under a clip of the unsettling “Contagion” ending. “Terrifying movie.”
“Contagion” is available to rent or buy through Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu, AppleTV+ and others.
“The Dark Crystal” (1982)
Now, this one scared you as a kid, right?
A dark fantasy concoction cooked up in part by co-directors Jim Henson (creator of the Muppets) and Frank Oz (famed puppeteer and film director), “The Dark Crystal” is cited by many as scary mostly because they went in expecting a “Muppety” family movie. Instead, what they got was what ScreenRant writer Jared Canfield calls, “the Muppet movie from hell.”
The movie does contain some of The Henson Company’s most masterful special effects and puppeteering — and this might account for some of the eeriness audiences feel when watching it. After all, even though protagonists Jen and Kira are “good” and more humanoid in appearance than the evil vulture-like Skeksis, their animatronics more noticeably veer into the “Uncanny Valley,” according to some viewers.
“Yeah, the more humanoid puppets are weird. Even Jim Henson thought they were too freaky, which is why he never made them again,” one Redditor claims in a thread in the Dark Crystal subreddit titled “This movie caused me childhood trauma.”
Puppetry aside, the movie — which includes some grotesque monster designs and grizzly deaths — was designed to scare kids, according to Henson himself. The entertainment great, who died in 1990, is well-known to believe a little horror was good for children and that more importantly, kids liked it, too. Moreover, Henson said while he felt a responsibility for what he put in front of children, he also felt “a responsibility to not preach to them.”
So, no, you’re not imagining that this movie is a bit unsettling. And though you’ve out-grown the pajamas you used to wear while watching “The Dark Crystal” through your fingers, does the fear ever really go away?
Kirkland continues: “There’s something so incredibly terrifying about it that watching it again 23 years later still makes me want to check under my bed and make sure that a Skeksis isn’t hiding under there.”
“The Dark Crystal” is available to rent or buy through Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu, AppleTV+ and others.
While some movies on this list are scary because of how realistic they are, this one actually happened.
Based upon the real-life case years-spanning serial murders of the Zodiac Killer, the film features several scenes placing the audience into the victims’ shoes. The chilling opening of “Zodiac” sets the stage for the violence and terror to come (including a maddeningly tense scene in a basement later on).
While technically billed as a mystery or thriller, the movie’s unrelenting atmosphere of dread pushes it just so slightly into the horror genre for many viewers.
“It’s not a horror film in the sense of how we’d normally think of one,” one Redditor opined several years ago. “But at the same time, there’s a very uncomfortable sense of unease and dread that hangs over the whole thing that seems to go above and beyond what you might expect from a typical thriller.”
Like many fictional killers, the Zodiac Killer has also never been apprehended — making this case one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in history.
“Zodiac” is available for rent or purchase across most streaming platforms and can be streamed for free (or with subscription) through Paramount+, Fubo and Showtime.
“Watership Down” (1978)
On its face, this one looks innocent enough: an animated kid’s movie about rabbits. What could go wrong? This one might also suffer from “The Dark Crystal”‘s advertised-for-kids-but-is-probably-best-for-older-kids problem.
“As a kid I remember thinking, ‘Why on Earth have my parents put this on for me?’ one Redditor explains.
The film, an adaptation of Richard Adams’ beloved 1972 novel of the same name, follows the trials and tribulations of a group of anthropomorphic rabbits. Though often picturesque and whimsical, the story (and its film) also doesn’t shy away from bloody violence and psychological tension.
A mere YouTube search of “Watership Down scary” produces compilations with titles such as “Watership Down: Most Disturbing/Violent Scenes,” “Watership Down Kill Count” and “Why Is Watership Down So Messed Up?!“
The film’s U rating (British equivalent of the American G rating) baffled many people for years — including the movie’s director.
“I did not make this picture for kids at all,” director Martin Rosen told The Independent in 2018. Rosen explained he insisted the film’s poster give potential viewers ample warning that even though the feature was animated, it wasn’t intended for ‘a mother with a sensitive child.”
Back in July, the British Board of Film Classification reviewed the film after decades of complaints and upgraded “Watership Down” to a PG rating, noting, “mild violence, threat, brief bloody images and bad language.”
BBFC Director David Austin previously told BBC the film would not be given the same rating were it released today.
“Watership Down” is available to rent or buy through Prime Video, YouTube and AppleTV+. You can also stream it for free (or with subscription) through Max and The Criterion Channel.
“Mulholland Drive” (2001)
Content warning: Though it’s not technically classified as a horror film, David Lynch’s dreamy 2001 masterpiece “Mulholland Drive” contains a notorious jump scare in its first 20 minutes that rivals anything you’d see playing on AMC FearFest.
And the “Mulholland Drive” jump scare is scary every time you see it.
“It’s a genius scene. It switches gears just like a normal dream turns into a nightmare,” a Redditor writes of the moment. “I love the idea that there is a horrible destiny that can’t be avoided, so poetic and so very scary.”
But it isn’t just that scene that makes “Mulholland Drive” unsettling. Though any David Lynch movie (or his TV series “Twin Peaks”) would be at home on this list, “Mulholland”‘s unreality blossoms via connected-but-separate storylines of identity doubles, mystery cowboys, and menacing miniature senior citizens.
Though polarizing upon release (as with most of Lynch’s work), “Mulholland Drive” has enjoyed a legacy of cultural appreciation in the 22 years since. The British Film Institute’s 2022 Sight and Sound poll, which was decided by over 1,600 global critics, ranked it the eighth Greatest Film of All Time. It was one of only two movies from the 21st century to make the cut.
Meanwhile, “Mulholland Drive” was named the best film of the 21st century in BBC Culture’s 21st Century’s 100 Greatest Films poll.
“Mulholland Drive” is available for rent or purchase across most streaming platforms and can be streamed for free (or with subscription) through Paramount+, Fubo and Showtime.
“Requiem for a Dream” (2000)
This one was mentioned a lot.
“Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky’s haunting 2000 psychological drama “Requiem for a Dream” thrusts its audience into the mind of four struggling drug addicts. There’s no preparing you for this one except to say expect the worst to happen and then expect even worse.
“I watched this in middle school in the old days of [peer-to-peer file sharing programs]. F— the D.A.R.E. program, this movie effectively scared me from ever doing drugs,” one Redditor quipped eight years ago.
Many of the film’s iconic shots and quick cuts have been replicated or referenced in various movies and music videos, including Rihanna’s “We Found Love” featuring Calvin Harris. Meanwhile, composer Clint Mansell’s virtuosic score — especially its standout, “Lux Aeterna” — has appeared in countless movies and TV shows. Interestingly, “Lux Aeterna” has become a frequent movie trailer guest star, with the Kronos Quartet’s dramatic strings appearing in trailers for “The Da Vinci Code,” “I Am Legend,” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”
One Reddit user raves: “The music in the final sequences is also some of the most jarring, unsettling stuff I’ve ever heard. Thanks to Clint Mansell.”
“Requiem for a Dream” is available for rent or purchase across most streaming platforms and can be streamed for free (or with subscription) through Pluto TV and Plex.
Finally, here are som special mentions: “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland,” “Eyes Wide Shut” (the author of this article has coincidentally argued “Eyes Wide Shut” is a Christmas movie), “Jesus Camp,” and “Apocalypse Now.”